Author Topic: Case Study--How can I limit spending now and put a plan in place for the future?  (Read 9190 times)

aikoaiko

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Hi.
       I just joined the MMM forum and have been very impressed with the advice given to people who are trying to become FI and more efficient in their spending.  I feel like this advice is blunt but at all times constructive and supportive.

        I have decided to post a Case Study because I have growing financial problems that have become dire over the last twenty years. I am 47 and my husband is 51.  I've been married 22 years and have three teenaged boys aged 19, 17, and 15.  Of my sons is on the Autism spectrum (the eldest), and two (the first and middle) have been diagnosed with a permanent arthritic condition that requires weekly medication and frequent doctor visits.  All of my kids were homeschooled, but the two oldest are attending the local community college now with plans to transfer to 4 year schools later. My youngest is still at home.

           My husband is a machinist at a company 20 miles away.  It is a union job and he has pretty much maxed out on salary at this point.  He has a pension that he can draw on in about 2 years (he'll have 30 years in soon), but I think (without checking exact figures) that it doesn't exceed 30,000/yr. at this point.   I am a certified teacher working part-time at the local school district with kids who are home due to medical or disciplinary issues.  I make a good hourly rate at $35, but the work is not steady or predictable. I do not get paid for mileage or time spent at schools visiting teachers or dropping off work, and as the district is very large it can take up to an hour to get from one end to the other to tutor students.  I live in NY state with current gas prices around the $3.50 mark, but there are no expenses for tolls or parking.

    My problem is that while we admittedly bring in little (especially when my husband is not on overtime), what does come in seems to disappear like water and there are no (absolutely no) savings here between us, other than a 401K at his company that we do not match fully and which has about $150,000 in it. 

                The breakdown of our expenses is as follows (it's bad, I know:( ):

Primary Mortgage--933.00/mo.
Secondary Mortgage--585.00/mo.
Electric--125.00/mo.
Propane--20.00/mo.
Gas (3 cars)--422.00/mo.
Medical bills (after insurance)--159.00/mo.
Gym Membership (whole family)--40.00/mo.
Netflix--7.99/mo.
Car Insurance for 2 cars--72.00/mo.
Food--500.00/mo.

               Yearly property taxes and home insurance (school and town--not in escrow) add up to 4691.00.  We order about $1500.00 a year in heating oil for what isn't supplemented by the woodstove.  My husband brings home an average of $3000 a month counting overtime, and in a good year I can bring home an additional $15,000.  The combined amount we still owe on our mortgages is $195,821.

   I know this is pathetic.  And compared to most people on this forum our hair isn't just on fire, it's combusting:(:(:(.  At the risk of being effusive, I'll say that my husband is in charge of the money and utterly refuses to address any ideas about planning.  He blows a large percentage of everything we earn on impulse purchases ranging from stops at convenient stores for snacks and frivolous purchases on ebay.  Currently we owe our yearly school tax bill ($2400), but he spent the tax money I put away for that months ago and is now planning (hoping--:( ) to sell an antique tractor he owns to pay it off by the end of the month.

   This lack of management has been an ongoing problem for 20 years and I don't know what to do anymore.  We are living way above our means, and when I try to budget our money and explain the reasons why this must be done (for things such as food, shelter, retirement, etc.), I am told that he's got it under control and the cycle invariably repeats itself.  In the absence of any kind of discipline I have tried to take pre-emptive measures. I have a 1/2 acre garden that I use to grow fruits and vegetables.  We have poultry for eggs and meat, we don't have cable or cell phones, and I cook everything from scratch.  My boys are healthy and very athletic, but they are growing and have very large appetites. I pay gas for the two who attend college since they commute (that's the gas for 3 cars), and both have part time jobs but cannot earn very much because they are carrying heavy course loads.

   We live in a very rural area that is 20-30 miles from the nearest town in any direction.  The taxes here used to be lower as we live in a NYC watershed, but they have skyrocketed in recent years though they still aren't high compared to most of the state. We have a small house that we remodeled for extra bedrooms for the kids (it was half finished when we moved in), so we ended up refinancing with a second mortgage 15 or so years ago. Moving away from here would be difficult because my parents live next door and they expect me to care for them when they get older. I haven't worked full-time since before the kids were born, and we live in an area with low growth and little income opportunity.

   I know we keep more cars than most of the members here.  My oldest son owns his own (bought used that he maintains and insures), and we have two for ourselves--one for my husband to take to work and one for me to use since 50-60% of my job is spent on the road.  Biking to work does not seem like an option for us:(.

                 The other awful thing is that my parents are paying some of our expenses.  They are currently financing my kids' college (after financial aid), they bought us a car last year, and they have even bailed us out on taxes once or twice when we couldn't come up with the money:(.

                  This is a desperate situation, and I know it:(.  I didn't grow up knowing anything about money, and I married someone who was even worse:(.  No matter how much I work (and during the latter months of the school year it can go up to 80 hours a week with travel) there is absolutely nothing being saved or paid down. It's as if I never even worked at all.  The money is used  as soon as the paycheck comes (and most months, even before), and when it is spent and we're flat broke again I am told it's because I didn't work enough and need to get a second job, knowing that I could be making three or four times the amount and there would still be nothing left.

                   I am tired of living like this. It makes me sick to take money from my parents. I admit that my marriage isn't good and money problems are a big part of it, but I do not feel that I can alter my domestic situation until my youngest is more independent. My husband's attitude is just that this is the way life is---that we are better off than most---and that in the current economy everyone else is in the same boat.  He doesn't feel the slightest need to change anything, yet when a crisis occurs (like paying taxes or an unforseen expense), he is more than happy to let my parents cover it.  I cannot go on like this and I do not want my kids to believe this is normal.  I am fortunate in that the first two kids are very frugal, but the youngest is more like his father and gets encouraged by him as well.  I am in the process of re-routing my paychecks for direct deposit in a different bank to have some control over what goes out, but I know much of this is a temporary solution to a bigger problem:(.

                   My question here is whether anyone has an idea of what I can do to improve the situation now.  I do not know what will happen over the next 5 years, but I feel like I need to formulate a plan to begin to get out of debt or at least minimize what is going out so there will be enough to buy food and cover normal bills that come up.  When I am home I hang laundry and cook from scratch and everything else, but the more I work (ironically:( ) the less time there is to do these things and the bills get even higher.  My kids are really great and help out as much as they can, but they are also going to school and there is only so much they can do.

   I'm sorry this is so long and I totally understand the thrashing I may get (and likely deserve, LOL).  I am willing to do nearly anything to improve this situation, but until my youngest is a little older I would rather not to rattle the domestic cage if I can help it. There might not be much I can do without more income or more responsible spending, but even if I can get a plan in place for the future then that is something:(. 

                    Thank you in advance for everything and please don't hesitate to be blunt.  I have a very thick skin but I am barely seeing straight right now.  It has been a rough couple of years.

Thegoblinchief

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Outside of the gasoline bill, none of the expenses you list are outrageous, but in the text you clearly state your husband has trouble with blowing money. You absolutely need to budget for "miscellaneous" expenses!

If needed, give him an allowance per month, but he CANNOT go over this amount. Period. End of story.

If your parents are still helping you at this age, surely he can feel ashamed at that?

Your housing expenses seem high, but I'll defer to your knowledge of the area. You do seem house poor, however. My wife and I gross a similar amount to you but our housing is about 60% of yours and I'd feel uncomfortable spending much more than that.

Terrestrial

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I'm sorry to year you are having such a rough time.  Unfortunately your situation is not what you'd call an 'easy fix'.  None of your miscellaneous expenses seem extreme for your size family, in fact some of them are quite good (500/mo food for 5 people is pretty good, especially with 3 teenage boys).  You seem like you work very hard at being frugal in most areas by growing the food, etc. 

What's really killing you is your housing cost.  I add up about 23k/year between both mortgages and prop tax/insurance.  If i understand correctly, your husband takes home about 36k and you add in about 15k so you have about 50k of take home income.  With your heating oil expense you are spending right around 50% of your income just to carry your house, that's pretty high and probably a big reason of why you feel pinched. 

The second big problem is how your husband handles money.  You could probably even overcome the ~50% housing expense if you were working together toward frugality, but you both are clearly not on the same page.  There's no easy way to say that until that happens, you are never going to make any progress.  Aside from agreeing to sell your house and vastly downsizing that expense, there is not really any other area where you can make the kind of cuts you need, aside from your husband's wasteful spending habits.  Even if you did sell your home and downsize it sounds like your husband would just waste any extra money that resulted anyway.

I know it will hurt but the best thing you can do in the short term is go and talk to your parents and tell them NOT to lend you or your husband any more money, AT ALL.   Tell them to be firm even if it seems like you really need it, and acknowledge that in the short term it will seem like it is doing more harm than good.  I think it's probably fine if they still contribute to the grandson's education if they have the money and want to help, that is for a good cause and doesn't feed your husband's poor habits.

Right now he has no incentive to save anything because he knows his in-laws will bail him out.  Perhaps when the easy money spigot it turned off he will be forced to change his ways.  Yes there will probably be some rough patches, late bill notices, unpaid tax notices, etc, but that may be the only thing that wakes him up.

EDIT (meant to ask but forgot first time):  What is your split between the mortgages?  Is the 2nd almost done with?  Knocking that out would at least improve your monthly cash flow, especially if you could take that $585/mo and redirect it to first building up emergency savings, then second starting to fund retirement, before your husband can get his hands on it.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2014, 08:01:02 PM by Terrestrial »

neophyte

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Ouch.  Honestly, as long as your husband is the one mainly in charge of handling money and doesn't see a problem with spending everything in the account, then it doesn't really matter how much you save by line drying clothes, gardening, and things of that ilk.  Unless you two can get on the same page, it sounds like whatever you save, he'll spend.  Getting your check direct deposited to another bank account sounds like a good step and will hopefully let you build up a buffer for the unexpected things.

But seriously -- marriage counseling. Or possibly one of those Dave Ramsey courses, I don't really know much about those. From what you say, it sounds like your husband is (mis)managing the money and shutting you out of financial conversations. Marriage counseling.

justplucky

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At the risk of being effusive, I'll say that my husband is in charge of the money and utterly refuses to address any ideas about planning.  He blows a large percentage of everything we earn on impulse purchases ranging from stops at convenient stores for snacks and frivolous purchases on ebay.  Currently we owe our yearly school tax bill ($2400), but he spent the tax money I put away for that months ago and is now planning (hoping--:( ) to sell an antique tractor he owns to pay it off by the end of the month.

This lack of management has been an ongoing problem for 20 years and I don't know what to do anymore.  We are living way above our means, and when I try to budget our money and explain the reasons why this must be done (for things such as food, shelter, retirement, etc.), I am told that he's got it under control and the cycle invariably repeats itself.

It's hard to use a bucket to empty the sinking boat when the person sitting with you keeps punching holes in the bottom of the boat.

You do have some things going for you: you're really close to having no dependents, and you didn't mention debt beyond your mortgages (although that second mortgage is killing you).

Any kid old enough to be in college is old enough to work 10 hours a week for his own gas money, even with a full course load. Yeah, it sucks that 50% of their take-home pay is used up on a "necessity." Welcome to adulthood.

I don't see anything in your case study that would be a strong argument against you working a single, steady job full time. If I were you I would find a full time teaching job within 30 minutes of home (the closer the better), add up the known mutual expenses, divide it in half, and tell my husband that's the amount he gets from me monthly to figure it out. This is very anti-team, but he is not on a team with you right now. If there is a mutual expense that comes up that hasn't been accounted for, he needs to lobby you for help paying for it, and if you agree the expense is mutual, you pay for half (no more). If he has an "emergency" due to poor planning, the message is "I already gave you money for that. I don't have any more available." I would also start stashing cash away like a madwoman for a rainy day, and by "rainy day," I don't mean bailing him out when he makes crappy spending decisions. I mean "I need to keep me and my kids fed and medicated" or to eventually pay for a divorce lawyer.

Are you the one asking your parents for money? Refuse to do it in the future. He's the one who needs to suck up his pride and do it if he insists on (mis)managing the money.

aikoaiko

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I know it will hurt but the best thing you can do in the short term is go and talk to your parents and tell them NOT to lend you or your husband any more money, AT ALL.   Tell them to be firm even if it seems like you really need it, and acknowledge that in the short term it will seem like it is doing more harm than good.  I think it's probably fine if they still contribute to the grandson's education if they have the money and want to help, that is for a good cause and doesn't feed your husband's poor habits.

Right now he has no incentive to save anything because he knows his in-laws will bail him out.  Perhaps when the easy money spigot it turned off he will be forced to change his ways.  Yes there will probably be some rough patches, late bill notices, unpaid tax notices, etc, but that may be the only thing that wakes him up.

EDIT (meant to ask but forgot first time):  What is your split between the mortgages?  Is the 2nd almost done with?  Knocking that out would at least improve your monthly cash flow, especially if you could take that $585/mo and redirect it to first building up emergency savings, then second starting to fund retirement, before your husband can get his hands on it.


              Thanks, and you're exactly right.  Whenever there is an 'out' of any sort he immediately relaxes and just assumes that it will be 'taken care of'.  When there is cash coming in he literally stops checking the bank or even balancing the checkbook (I know, it boggles the mind:( ), and before you know it it's all gone before he even knew what was there.  He takes the checkbook to work with him and actually even hides it because he thinks the reason we have no money is because I overspend on food.  I can check it online myself of course (and do), but with all the registers gone it gets harder to see what's there and what he's done:(.

                Our primary mortgage has 130,000 on it and the secondary has 65,821. Refinancing was a rotten idea in hindsight, but we needed more room and I knew the funds would never be saved:(.  Thank you for the idea about having my parents cut off the funds.  That is a REALLY great idea and I will definitely do it!

aikoaiko

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Ouch.  Honestly, as long as your husband is the one mainly in charge of handling money and doesn't see a problem with spending everything in the account, then it doesn't really matter how much you save by line drying clothes, gardening, and things of that ilk.  Unless you two can get on the same page, it sounds like whatever you save, he'll spend.  Getting your check direct deposited to another bank account sounds like a good step and will hopefully let you build up a buffer for the unexpected things.

But seriously -- marriage counseling. Or possibly one of those Dave Ramsey courses, I don't really know much about those. From what you say, it sounds like your husband is (mis)managing the money and shutting you out of financial conversations. Marriage counseling.


              Unfortunately I think we're past that:(.  We're definitely not on the same page and the fault of all the problems seems to lie with me.  I wouldn't care as much except that he is not making the connection that his monetary habits are cheating the kids:(.  My boys have worried about money ever since they were little and it is that more than anything that is putting me over the edge.  I feel good about the separate bank account.  I have begun working again this week and everything I make will go in there.

aikoaiko

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It's hard to use a bucket to empty the sinking boat when the person sitting with you keeps punching holes in the bottom of the boat.

You do have some things going for you: you're really close to having no dependents, and you didn't mention debt beyond your mortgages (although that second mortgage is killing you).

Any kid old enough to be in college is old enough to work 10 hours a week for his own gas money, even with a full course load. Yeah, it sucks that 50% of their take-home pay is used up on a "necessity." Welcome to adulthood.

I don't see anything in your case study that would be a strong argument against you working a single, steady job full time. If I were you I would find a full time teaching job within 30 minutes of home (the closer the better), add up the known mutual expenses, divide it in half, and tell my husband that's the amount he gets from me monthly to figure it out. This is very anti-team, but he is not on a team with you right now. If there is a mutual expense that comes up that hasn't been accounted for, he needs to lobby you for help paying for it, and if you agree the expense is mutual, you pay for half (no more). If he has an "emergency" due to poor planning, the message is "I already gave you money for that. I don't have any more available." I would also start stashing cash away like a madwoman for a rainy day, and by "rainy day," I don't mean bailing him out when he makes crappy spending decisions. I mean "I need to keep me and my kids fed and medicated" or to eventually pay for a divorce lawyer.

Are you the one asking your parents for money? Refuse to do it in the future. He's the one who needs to suck up his pride and do it if he insists on (mis)managing the money.

                 Thanks for the great advice!  Yes, I am the one going to my parents for the money, because he would never do it.  What usually ends up happening is that everything is used up 2-3 days into the paycheck, then I am stuck with nothing left for food, gas and meds, etc.  The humiliation has been getting intolerable, and at this point I have just reached my limit.  I have no qualms at this point about separating the money I make no matter what the consequences are (fights, blow-ups, whatever).  Enough is just enough:(.  I've tried to find a full-time job but very few of the local districts are hiring now.  I would have to move away (possibly to another state), and that's not really possible right now.  I have thought about supplementing my work with a night or weekend job, but there would be lots of traveling involved because of where we live, and I'm not sure a minimum wage would be worth it.

                  Beyond the mortgages there is no real debt.  We had a CC problem years ago but I managed to get them paid off and then got one basic card with a $500 limit.  It's a good idea about having the boys begin to pay gas--or at least contribute to it, and that's a GREAT tip about dividing expenses up with my husband.  Even if I can't work full time I could probably still work some percentage out based on what I make, and that way I will at least have control over some of the income.

                   The anti-team thing is something I have come to terms with.  The most important thing are my kids IMO, and I wouldn't be having to resort to any of this if everything had been handled differently:(.  I used to feel guilty about bringing it up, but no more, ever again.  Thanks SO much everyone for your help!:)

Setters-r-Better

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I can tell how incredibly stressful this is for you. 
It sounds like you're taking all the right steps. Working full time does seem like it will help.  What are you most worried about?  Having funds for irregular expenses, paying down the mortgage,  saving for retirement?  Perhaps just picking one specific goal to focus on with your husband could help get you guys on the same team.

Do you both have online access to bank accounts?  Have you ever set up something like YNAB and monitored expenses daily together?  We're using goodbudget.com. it allows you to have envelopes so you know exactly what each dollar in your account is assigned to.  I highly recommend using a system like this.  You can set it up,  track everything,  and report to him daily or weekly what the status is.

former player

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To be fair to your husband, you say he brings home an average of $3,000 a month including overtime, and I count your monthly expenses including a monthly share of property taxes and heating oil as coming to $3,380 a month.  So he doesn't have to be blowing his money on anything which is off-budget and you would still be in trouble, especially given that there are some categories not mentioned in your budget at all, such as clothing/shoes and house maintenance.

You need more income: it's the only way you are going to get out from under that enormous mortgage debt.  It sounds as though your husband is maxing out his salary limits and working overtime too, so more income is going to be down to you.  You need to hustle.  Could you start private tutoring?  I'm also a bit concerned that your decent hourly rate from the school district is in fact being eaten up by travelling and other costs - how much are you spending to earn your money?  You may be bringing in less than you think, once you have accounted for the true costs of all the commuting you are doing.

What interest rates are you paying on your mortgages?  Can you refinance?

The reason your sons are worried about money is because you have taught them to be worried about it, and for boys of their age I think that is a bit sad - they need to see money as something they work with rather than worry about.  You need to teach them that money is to be earned and then managed - if their course loads are too heavy for them to pay their own gas, perhaps they need to lighten their course loads and up their earning hours.  They will get to the same place in the end and have the satisfaction of not having to rely on their parents to pay their housing, food and gas while they do it.

Either Mint or You Need a Budget could help you and your husband get on the same page - you can tell him that everything you both spend will be on there for complete transparency, so he will be able to track exactly what you spend money on.

fallstoclimb

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Whenever there is an 'out' of any sort he immediately relaxes and just assumes that it will be 'taken care of'.  When there is cash coming in he literally stops checking the bank or even balancing the checkbook (I know, it boggles the mind:( ), and before you know it it's all gone before he even knew what was there.  He takes the checkbook to work with him and actually even hides it because he thinks the reason we have no money is because I overspend on food.  I can check it online myself of course (and do), but with all the registers gone it gets harder to see what's there and what he's done:(.

This really concerns me.  He hides the checkbook from you?  That's alarmingly controlling, especially given that he is driving the money problems.  I highly, highly, highly suggest marriage counseling.

It's not clear if you are actually tracking where every dollar goes, since the budget you posted doesn't include his miscellaneous spending. Is it that you can't do this because he writes checks rather than use a debit card?  Is this so you can't track him?  That really, really alarms me as well. 

I'd talk to him about tearing up the checkbook and keeping your spending all on debit cards so you can track where your money is going.  He might just go to using cash, though.  He isn't on your team at all, it sounds like. 

I'm worried for you.   

This is a desperate situation, and I know it:(.  I didn't grow up knowing anything about money, and I married someone who was even worse:(.  No matter how much I work (and during the latter months of the school year it can go up to 80 hours a week with travel) there is absolutely nothing being saved or paid down. It's as if I never even worked at all.  The money is used  as soon as the paycheck comes (and most months, even before), and when it is spent and we're flat broke again I am told it's because I didn't work enough and need to get a second job, knowing that I could be making three or four times the amount and there would still be nothing left.

I don't understand this -- you work as much as 80 hours a week at times but only bring in $15,000 a year? 

Most of the typical recommendations for someone in your situation would bind you to your husband further -- quit your job so you can sell one of the cars (bc it doesn't sound like you make much after travel and time costs), move closer to his job into a smaller house -- but I'm really hesitant to suggest that here.

NinaNina

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His hiding the checkbook worries me as well. It leads me to think that there might be a secret credit card or other sort of hidden debt situation happening.

aikoaiko

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I can tell how incredibly stressful this is for you. 
It sounds like you're taking all the right steps. Working full time does seem like it will help.  What are you most worried about?  Having funds for irregular expenses, paying down the mortgage,  saving for retirement?  Perhaps just picking one specific goal to focus on with your husband could help get you guys on the same team.

Do you both have online access to bank accounts?  Have you ever set up something like YNAB and monitored expenses daily together?  We're using goodbudget.com. it allows you to have envelopes so you know exactly what each dollar in your account is assigned to.  I highly recommend using a system like this.  You can set it up,  track everything,  and report to him daily or weekly what the status is.

            Yes, I will certainly look into the goodbudget, but in the past any attempt to budget (with a program or otherwise) has met with abject failure.  It may start off alright for a day or two, but he quickly gets resentful and the whole thing ends up falling apart.  The envelope idea is really good too (I've tried that), but if I don't hide the envelopes, LOL--or the money that has been allocated--it's gone the next morning:(.

            Mainly I am worried about the feast or famine lifestyle, and no advance planning to at least make sure there is enough in place for essentials like food.  It's the insecurity of the whole thing that bothers me so much, especially where the needs of the kids are concerned.  You are absolutely right though, and I appreciate the advice!  I need to do something to bring in more income.

Thegoblinchief

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Counseling. Seriously. If he's "stealing" money, you need a 3rd party to help him see the light or you need to GTFO.

aikoaiko

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This really concerns me.  He hides the checkbook from you?  That's alarmingly controlling, especially given that he is driving the money problems.  I highly, highly, highly suggest marriage counseling.

It's not clear if you are actually tracking where every dollar goes, since the budget you posted doesn't include his miscellaneous spending. Is it that you can't do this because he writes checks rather than use a debit card?  Is this so you can't track him?  That really, really alarms me as well. 

I'd talk to him about tearing up the checkbook and keeping your spending all on debit cards so you can track where your money is going.  He might just go to using cash, though.  He isn't on your team at all, it sounds like. 

I'm worried for you.   




I don't understand this -- you work as much as 80 hours a week at times but only bring in $15,000 a year? 

Most of the typical recommendations for someone in your situation would bind you to your husband further -- quit your job so you can sell one of the cars (bc it doesn't sound like you make much after travel and time costs), move closer to his job into a smaller house -- but I'm really hesitant to suggest that here.

            Hi, and thank you.  Yes, I've suggested marriage counseling but he doesn't want to do that--he doesn't see it as a problem:(.

             I can track what he's spending online if he's using a debit or writing checks, but he also does things like overwrite checks, and he has a paypal account online that he connected to the checking account and CC to cover ebay purchases, and I don't have access to that one:(.

             What the 80 hours a week means is that I work up to 40 (usually), but spend the rest of the time on the road traveling between students, which I do not get paid for.  Half the time is spent working, while the other half is spent getting there, LOL.  The time is not always this high, and I don't generally get to this pitch until the last 3 months of the school year or so, when there's a high volume of students at opposite ends of the district.  In other words, it's the sort of job where you either aren't working at all or you are almost at the point of collapse, LOL.  Also, because you are dealing with kids and their families, absences and things do happen.  You could get to a house for a 2-3 hour job but no one will be home (or answers the door), and you are only allowed to claim 1 hour on your time sheet in that event.

               I know it sounds crazy, and you may be right that it isn't worth it due to the time, etc. but it's the only local thing that still seems to outperform a min. wage job.  I've already rerouted my checks for this to another bank, so I'm hopeful I'll be able to save more of it.  Also, the office has promised me to give me priority this year on students who are closer to me to try and minimize the traveling, but every year is different and no one can ever say where the students will be. 

                Anyway, thank you very much for the suggestions! I will try to break things down a little further for myself on paper to see if maybe just finding something full-time farther away would be better, or possibly combining several part-time jobs to be more profitable.

aikoaiko

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His hiding the checkbook worries me as well. It leads me to think that there might be a secret credit card or other sort of hidden debt situation happening.

                  I don't think there are any other accounts that I'm not aware of. He just seems stingy with the ones we have:(.  With the limited amount that comes in I think I would notice large chunks that were missing.  The problem is more the little things, I think--the drips and drabs spent that add up to more in a small sink.  I've tried making a list of the daily small expenses that come in at the bank to show him, but he just won't make the connection that they do indeed impact the budget.  It's sort of a lost cause at this point and I know there isn't much to work with anyway, so I've resolved to begin separating the money to keep track of it better, and if I can land a better job it might not matter so much what he does, or at least the damage might be cut in half. LOL.

aikoaiko

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Counseling. Seriously. If he's "stealing" money, you need a 3rd party to help him see the light or you need to GTFO.

            You're right.  I know it:(.

whiskeyjack

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You can go to counseling without him.  I think that may be a good idea just to help you get clear on your own thoughts and emotions and to help plan an exit strategy (which seems to be where this is going.)

former player

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The thing is, as far as I can see, that in coming here you have made your financial problems all about your husband.  But what you have told us tells me that in many ways he is a solid citizen.  He has held down a job for 28 years, got to the top of his pay scale and earned a pension, stayed with you and helped bring up three children, and after 28 years in the same job is still working overtime to bring in more money.  That is all admirable stuff.   On the other hand, there is clearly a complete breakdown between the two of you on the subject of money.  You've laid your income and expenses out very clearly for us: I'm surprised that if you have done the same for him it hasn't sunk in.  You neither of you trust the other on the subject of money, which is very sad, as otherwise you do seem to have a lot going for you as a couple.

Could you hold a family meeting, including your three boys, to discuss finances?  Its purpose would be to come to a family agreement about your financial goals and to start a discussion on how you are going to reach those goals.

You need to lay out to your family -

- income (your husband's basic, his average overtime, your average part-time, selling things such as the tractor),

- expenses (monthly expenses as you have laid them out here, plus the things you haven't listed - I previously mentioned clothes and house maintenance as categories you omitted, but how much do your garden and poultry cost?  Do you keep accounts for them?  You haven't put any specific expenses for them down in your budget- plus a monthly average for the annual expenses such as taxes and oil).  This is only going to work if you put down everything in a completely open way.  Put question marks against any moneys expended or coming in that your husband has not accounted to you for. 

- assets and debts (you haven't said whether you have any equity in your house, and how much it is, but it is relevant to a possible re-finance).

You then need to ask for suggestions.  You would have to start by bringing something to the table yourself by way of solutions and suggestions, as well as asking all the others to come up with suggestions.  I think your initial suggestion could be to work on the food budget: I know you've got four grown and growing men to feed, but for someone who grows fruit and veg and raises poultry, your spending is a bit high still.  There are lots of threads here on how to feed people more cheaply.  And an offer to work on the food budget could be something which helps your husband to trust that you are making this a joint enterprise rather than just about him.

I suggested tutoring earlier as a way for you to bring in more money: is that an option?

You have a half-acre garden: can you sell off a building plot or put a rental house/trailer on it?

Is there any chance your husband's ebay purchases are a way (possibly unsuccessful) for him to try and make extra money?  I ask because of the possible sale of the antique tractor.  Are there other things in the house you could suggest selling?

I can understand how having your own bank account will make you feel better, but unfortunately, as long as you and your husband have a household paid for jointly and have no spare money coming in to build up a reserve which can be held in that account, it is mostly an emotional benefit to you rather than a practical one.  Emotional benefits should not be underestimated, but they are undermined if not supported by practical solutions as well, and your practical solution is to ensure that everyone in your family has full information about your finances and can work together to put answers in place.

Good luck.

fallstoclimb

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I can understand how having your own bank account will make you feel better, but unfortunately, as long as you and your husband have a household paid for jointly and have no spare money coming in to build up a reserve which can be held in that account, it is mostly an emotional benefit to you rather than a practical one.  Emotional benefits should not be underestimated, but they are undermined if not supported by practical solutions as well, and your practical solution is to ensure that everyone in your family has full information about your finances and can work together to put answers in place.

Actually given her husband's alarmingly controlling behavior regarding money, combined with the fact that she has low earning potential and lives in a rural isolated area, I think starting her own bank account and developing her own finances is probably one of the best things she can do. 

I honestly see a lot of hallmarks of emotional abuse here.  I don't like to jump to that conclusion, but he takes the checkbook so that she can't spend money, and takes money out of cash envelopes that they use for budgeting.  This is a really really unhealthy relationship and he won't go to counseling.  I'm not going to tell a stranger on the internet to get a divorce, but at the VERY LEAST she should be putting aside her own money in an account that he can't access so that she has some options down the road.

The thing is, as far as I can see, that in coming here you have made your financial problems all about your husband.  But what you have told us tells me that in many ways he is a solid citizen.  He has held down a job for 28 years, got to the top of his pay scale and earned a pension, stayed with you and helped bring up three children, and after 28 years in the same job is still working overtime to bring in more money.  That is all admirable stuff.   On the other hand, there is clearly a complete breakdown between the two of you on the subject of money.  You've laid your income and expenses out very clearly for us: I'm surprised that if you have done the same for him it hasn't sunk in.  You neither of you trust the other on the subject of money, which is very sad, as otherwise you do seem to have a lot going for you as a couple.

Seriously?  He's a "model citizen"?  HE HIDES THE CHECKBOOK FROM HIS WIFE.  Like, fine, good for him that he has held down a job for 28 years, but he won't discuss finances with her, won't go to counseling with her, and won't let her see what he is spending money on.  This are all HUGE HUGE HUGE red flags. 

former player

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I agree there are red flags on the husband's side, just pointing out that there are red flags on the wife's side as well.   The bottom line is that after 20 years together neither of them trusts the other with money, and neither is communicating effectively with the other about money.   I just think it is worth noting that it takes two to manage a joint budget, we are only getting one side of the story about money, and that story is not in itself complete.

I agree the wife should have her own back account, but if she has to use it all to pay the debts the family is accruing, and from the account of their finances that we have so far that is what she needs to do, having her own account to pass money through is an illusion of control rather than the reality of it.  The husband's earnings do not cover their monthly expenses even without all the frittering he is supposedly doing.

I didn't say "model citizen", I said "in many ways a solid citizen".   Looked at from the outside of the marriage (and that is what we are doing) he has held down an job, accrued a pension, and stayed around to help raise his children: that is all good stuff and a very sizeable proportion of men don't even manage that.   In other ways, principally the failure of he and his wife to agree about money and his way of dealing with that failure, no he is not a solid citizen.

The wife lives in a rural area but is not isolated: her parents live next door and apparently are in the habit of helping her out time and time again.

I'm fairly sure that in this case the facepunches are deserved on both sides of the marriage.  They took on a second mortgage of $65,000 they couldn't afford because they "needed" a bigger house.  Their hair is on fire but they are paying for a gym membership.  They are spending $500 a month on food despite (or because of: we don't have the figures) growing their own veg and raising their own chickens.  Their utilities are $270 a month, and their gas bill is a completely un-mustachian $422 a month.  If the situation is to be saved, both sides of this marriage are going to have to say "I have been at fault and I need to change".

aikoaiko

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          I am not saying I'm faultless, and I'm not trying to portray myself as a saint. That was not my intention at all:(.  This has been going on for some time and I know exactly how it looks, but if it wasn't for the kids I would have abandoned the situation long ago.  Whether it was the right decision to stay or whether I should have stopped it regardless I don't know, but I had an autistic son to deal with that prevented me from doing much else, and now that he's older and more independent I feel like I can start to move forward more constructively. I know it's late and I share the blame, but it's never too late to change.

        I am really glad to have posted here because I've gotten a ton of good ideas.  I appreciate all the feedback (really!) and will find a way to work things out.

Thanks!

Must_Stash

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I'll say that my husband is in charge of the money and utterly refuses to address any ideas about planning.  He blows a large percentage of everything we earn on impulse purchases ranging from stops at convenient stores for snacks and frivolous purchases on ebay.  Currently we owe our yearly school tax bill ($2400), but he spent the tax money I put away for that months ago and is now planning (hoping--:( ) to sell an antique tractor he owns to pay it off by the end of the month.

   This lack of management has been an ongoing problem for 20 years and I don't know what to do anymore.  We are living way above our means, and when I try to budget our money and explain the reasons why this must be done (for things such as food, shelter, retirement, etc.), I am told that he's got it under control and the cycle invariably repeats itself. 

   Moving away from here would be difficult because my parents live next door and they expect me to care for them when they get older.
   I know we keep more cars than most of the members here.  My oldest son owns his own (bought used that he maintains and insures), and we have two for ourselves--one for my husband to take to work and one for me to use since 50-60% of my job is spent on the road.  Biking to work does not seem like an option for us:(.

                 The other awful thing is that my parents are paying some of our expenses.  They are currently financing my kids' college (after financial aid), they bought us a car last year, and they have even bailed us out on taxes once or twice when we couldn't come up with the money:(.

                   No matter how much I work (and during the latter months of the school year it can go up to 80 hours a week with travel) there is absolutely nothing being saved or paid down. It's as if I never even worked at all.  The money is used  as soon as the paycheck comes (and most months, even before), and when it is spent and we're flat broke again I am told it's because I didn't work enough and need to get a second job, knowing that I could be making three or four times the amount and there would still be nothing left.

                   I am tired of living like this. It makes me sick to take money from my parents. I admit that my marriage isn't good and money problems are a big part of it, but I do not feel that I can alter my domestic situation until my youngest is more independent. My husband's attitude is just that this is the way life is---that we are better off than most---and that in the current economy everyone else is in the same boat.  He doesn't feel the slightest need to change anything, yet when a crisis occurs (like paying taxes or an unforseen expense), he is more than happy to let my parents cover it.  I cannot go on like this and I do not want my kids to believe this is normal.

 I am in the process of re-routing my paychecks for direct deposit in a different bank to have some control over what goes out, but I know much of this is a temporary solution to a bigger problem:(.

                   My question here is whether anyone has an idea of what I can do to improve the situation now.  I do not know what will happen over the next 5 years, but I feel like I need to formulate a plan to begin to get out of debt or at least minimize what is going out so there will be enough to buy food and cover normal bills that come up.  When I am home I hang laundry and cook from scratch and everything else, but the more I work (ironically:( ) the less time there is to do these things and the bills get even higher.  My kids are really great and help out as much as they can, but they are also going to school and there is only so much they can do.

   I'm sorry this is so long and I totally understand the thrashing I may get (and likely deserve, LOL).  I am willing to do nearly anything to improve this situation, but until my youngest is a little older I would rather not to rattle the domestic cage if I can help it. There might not be much I can do without more income or more responsible spending, but even if I can get a plan in place for the future then that is something:(. 

                    Thank you in advance for everything and please don't hesitate to be blunt.  I have a very thick skin but I am barely seeing straight right now.  It has been a rough couple of years.

Separating your earning from his is a great first step.  A good second step would be moving in with your parents.  You need financial and physical separation.  Your parents should not be bleeding money into your spouse's veins.  During separation you should go to marriage counseling and address the inequality in this partnership.  It needs IMO to be rebuilt at the foundation.

You and your husband don't need a house for 5 anymore; you don't need impulse purchases and late tax payments.  You need a budget and a secure future.  For that you will have to take separate action from your spouse initially.  For twenty years he has shut you out and the hour is growing very late.  What has not worked before will continue not to work.  I am so very sorry for you guys.  Two decades of financial incompatibility sounds like a pure nightmare to me as a Mustachian.

Your son at fifteen is old enough to choose where to live and to understand the situation.

At the very least, STOP taking money from your parents.  Ask them to put their offerings into an account dedicated to your future expenses, when you transition to independent living.  For God's sake, just stop flushing these funds.  Work out payment plans for these debts; if he defaults, hope they garnish your husband's paychecks. 

fallstoclimb

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At the very least, STOP taking money from your parents.  Ask them to put their offerings into an account dedicated to your future expenses, when you transition to independent living. 

+1

Louis the Cat

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[quote author=Must_Stash link=topic=24490.msg414809#msg414809 date=1412350449

Separating your earning from his is a great first step.  A good second step would be moving in with your parents.  You need financial and physical separation.  Your parents should not be bleeding money into your spouse's veins.  During separation you should go to marriage counseling and address the inequality in this partnership.  It needs IMO to be rebuilt at the foundation.

...

Your son at fifteen is old enough to choose where to live and to understand the situation.

At the very least, STOP taking money from your parents.  Ask them to put their offerings into an account dedicated to your future expenses, when you transition to independent living.  For God's sake, just stop flushing these funds.
[/quote]

+1

Spondulix

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While I'm a huge advocate of marriage counseling, it's an expense they may not be able to afford right now. A situation like this is a bit like telling someone they need to lose weight - everyone knows it, no one wants to hear it, and the only person who can change it is the overweight one.  I think a family intervention would come across as an attack (and if things are bad, any discussion might come across as an attack). I'm guessing he knows it's a problem, he's probably ashamed of it... some men don't want to talk about problems until they have a solution.

I'm wondering if there might be a more subtle way to get him on board - Maybe something to help his own confidence in saving, knowledge of finance, etc. Would it help to have a neutral third party evaluate your spending with the two of you? (maybe a bank offers financial advising or credit counseling, or a local accountant to look through your expenses) You could try making finance a family interest which is openly talked about. Would the boys be interested in savings accounts, where you could write them a check for doing small jobs? Or, maybe you could come up with a family business for some side cash where everyone can chip in to the efforts.

Goldielocks

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If full time or even part time jobs are hard to come by, could you rent a room in your house?  Maybe to a student friend in your son's program so car pooling is okay?  If you make it cheap enough, someone will take you up in it.  Consider room and board for more Income.  Sounds like you have the cooking down.

Sons can start sharing a room to make it possible.?

rmendpara

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The first step is the hardest: Admitting you want something better than what you have. Since you've done this, great job!

Next, break down your overall situation into manageable "chunks". Each one may have some relation to others, but you have to walk before you can run & swim.

#1: Decide what you want to do with husband. Make it work, or begin planning an exit. It's up to you, and I won't pretend to know what I'm talking about on this issue. If you decide to stay together, your very first priority needs to be to work to get him onboard with your goals, or to come up with shared goals. First is probably making him ask parents for money next time. No worries in shaming him into growing up.

#2: Track your budget for a few months. Know exactly where your money is going and what you have left after living expenses. It's impossible to plan to fill up a bucket of water if you don't know how much water you can get out of the garden hose.

#3: Once you do 1 and 2, you can start planning to pay down debt and/or invest for the future. This may get complicated if you decide to part ways with husband, and will probably be complicated even if you two decide to work it out. Primary goal once kids are grown will be to find a way to make more money and spend the same. $50-60k just isn't that much to work with... and none of your expenses seem outrageous (of course, it may be the "miscellaneous" stuff that's screwing up your finances).

General comments: It won't be easy. This is a 5+ year process before you might feel like you're making a significant difference. Accept this and get motivated to make the necessary changes.

Before you run a marathon, you need to get proper shoes, socks, and water...

retired?

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Try to show him where the status quo will eventually lead you.  There is a quote:

"If something cannot go on forever, it will stop,"

An alternative is "If something goes on forever (spending above means), then it will never stop"

The point is that making a change has to start at some point, and putting off until tomorrow means it has continued.

The effect of poor decisions on a daily basis may not seem that big, but the cumulative effect can be very damaging.  You know this.  I am just trying to give suggestions on how to convince your husband of the longer-term impact.